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Anatomy of a phone scam: Caller makes mistakes

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Next time your phone rings, think twice before you answer. Utah law enforcers are using the most recent case in the state to draw up an anatomy of a phone scam.

Utah County Sheriff’s commanders alerted ABC4.com this week and told us they had a live one on the line. We investigated and found out that the reported scammer’s attempts to trick potential victims actually gave him away.

“This call is for Mr. (name deleted). Mr. ____, my name is Lieutenant David Oliver with the Utah County Sheriff’s Department. I work with the administrative services department and I need to speak with you as soon as possible.”

And with that, the scam had started. But also, an investigation began. The caller didn’t know it at the time, but he’d left clues that exposed his ploy. The first – the caller said he was from the sheriff’s “department.”

“We never say “department,” Sergeant Spencer Cannon tells ABC4.com. “We are the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.”

The call recipient became instantly suspicious. He would have ignored the call until another came in the next day.

“I need to speak with you today, Mr. ____,” the caller said, in a more urgent voice, “or there could be some very serious legal implications, alright? Thank you.”

The feigned urgency didn’t fool the recipient. He alerted the authorities.

“We got an email from a guy who said that he received a phone call that seemed unusual to him,” says Sergeant Cannon. 

As ABC4.com reported earlier this week, the suspicious recipient sent along the voice mails for investigators to analyze. And now, they say the caller gave them enough information, to draw up the anatomy of a phone scam.

“It was a person with a very southern sounding accent,” says Sergeant Cannon. “And he identified himself as Lieutenant David Oliver.” 

That’s a somewhat new wrinkle, for a phone scam, says Cannon, but it gave the caller away.

“We actually have a Lieutenant David Oliver who works for the Utah County Sheriff’s Office,” says Cannon. “He happens to be my boss.”

The next new wrinkle to the age-old law enforcement phone scam came at the end of the first call.

“There was no pitch made about how much you owe,” says Cannon. “I’m sure that was coming.”

ABC4.com called the number, 801-876-8944, to try to talk to the caller and hear his explanation for ourselves.

No answer. But the voice mail greeting included another clever attempt at tricking callers:

“We encourage everyone to participate in the Utah County gun drive,” the greeting said.

There was only one problem with that, according to Sergeant Cannon.

“There is no gun drive in Utah County.”

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